Introducing, Ivy Scholars Pro-Bono Service

A problem we struggle with in the college consulting industry is equity. We know that many deserving and brilliant students don’t have the resources necessary to use our services, and while we do put out many free resources, there is no substitute for face-to-face interactions and personalized, bespoke advice.

To that end, and to give back to the Houston community that has done so much for us, Ivy Scholars has launched a new pro-bono service, and we’re eager to begin working with students! In this article, we are announcing our new pro bono college consulting program and will introduce you to what our pro-bono service is, our goals with it, and how you can benefit.

Our Pro-Bono Service

Ivy Scholars has been taking on pro-bono students for as long as we’ve been a company. While we helped all our students, both pro-bono and paying, get into amazing schools and land some great scholarships, we knew that having a more developed system would let us help more students more efficiently.

Now, we’re pleased to announce our new system for working with pro-bono students is up and running.

Here’s how our system works:

  • Students are nominated by a teacher or counselor.
  • We review the applications to find the students who can benefit the most from our help.
  • We let the students know they’ve been selected, introduce them to their mentor, and let them know what our process involves.
  • Each student receives 20 hours of mentoring, used to apply to whatever schools they wish, in alignment with their goals.

Our biggest improvements to the system come in how we’re finding new pro-bono students; our path for helping them is the same as how we help all the students we work with, and we are pleased with our results.

Once students are working with mentors, they go through our five-phase structure of college applications:

  • Phase 1: Planning. In this phase, we work with students to determine what they want from their college experience, and how best to get it. Whether its top schools, best chances for a scholarship, or a specific major, we tailor each engagement to match a student’s needs and strengths.
  • Phase 2: Details. Next we deal with the details, the little pieces that trip you up if left too late. We help students fill out the application portals, compose their activities lists, and pick teachers to ask for letters of recommendation.
  • Phase 3: First Essays. Here we begin the writing process with the core essays. We start with the personal statement, and UT Austin’s supplemental essays. These get students used to the writing process, and familiarize them with our methods.
  • Phase 4: Finish Writing. In this phase, we compose the remaining supplemental essays the student needs. This phase may be shorter or longer, depending on which schools the student is applying to, as different schools want varying numbers of essays.
  • Phase 5: Final Touches. Finally we take care of any remaining details. Here we discuss interviews, applying for financial aid, and visiting schools. We also talk with students about how to choose between several schools. Our obligation to students does not end when the applications are submitted.

With this structure, we help students write the best applications possible, and get into the best schools they can. While pro-bono students sometimes have different concerns or priorities from our other students, we are able to help them succeed as well.

Our results speak for themselves, with previous pro-bono students getting accepted into Rice, Columbia, and the business honors program at UT Austin McCombs. Another student received a full-ride scholarship to the University of Houston Bauer College of Business, as their primary concern was paying for college.

Why We’re Doing This

We’ve been lucky enough as a company to find a home in Houston. Many of our customers come from word of mouth, and the community has been very welcoming to us. We wanted to do something to give back to the community that has done so much for us, and so we began taking on pro-bono students.

Finally, we want to acknowledge that college admissions are inherently unfair. Some schools have many more resources to help students, and some students have more time and resources to devote to applications generally. Help from companies like ours exacerbates an existing problem. By offering pro-bono services, we want to help bridge this gap, and help deserving students gain admissions to top colleges.

How We Can Help You

If you’re interested in our pro-bono services, you can find the web page for them here. While we are only accepting nominations from teachers and counselors at this time, we still have many other resources on our site we encourage you to make use of (after all, that’s why we spent so much time making them). Now, we’ll give you an overview of our resources, and where you can find them.

The first resource to turn your attention to is our downloadable guides. These cover a number of important topics in the admissions process, and our ultimate guide contains almost all of our curriculum material. These are the same documents we use with our students, organized in the same way, meant for you to be able to work through on your own. This is a great place to start, and if you only decide to use one of these, we suggest it is this guide.

Next are our guides for certain types of students. We have specific guides for student-athletes, international students, homeschooled students, transfer students, and art students. Each of these groups has unique concerns in their application process, and these guides serve to address these. If you fall into one of these categories, we suggest using the appropriate guide. 

Our blog covers a great many topics, usually, ones too niche to fit in elsewhere. Of special note is our post on financial aid, though you may find a lot of other helpful advice in the articles. The blog also has sections for students interested in test prep or candidacy building.

Our college fact sheets are a useful resource but can feel overwhelming, so we’ll spend a bit more time talking about how to use them. These fact sheets cover almost every detail about a college, and we add more all the time. The first major section is on admissions information; the deadlines to apply, the acceptance rate, average test scores for the school, and what they want from your application.

For top schools, we then have a section on admissions strategy. This explains what exactly the school is looking for in applicants, and how best to show it to them. For schools that require essays, we have downloadable guides with examples of essays and analyses. These will help you answer a school’s specific essay questions.

The next sections are on the school’s academics and campus life. You shouldn’t read these straight through, instead of skimming the headings to find the pieces you are interested in, and explore the links in depth. The section on financial aid comes next. This explains how much a school costs, and what financial aid resources are available for their students.

Final Thoughts

We are pleased to have the opportunity to give back to the community that has welcomed us so warmly and hope that with our new program we will be able to help many bright young students find the future they deserve. 

If you are a teacher or counselor, we encourage you to nominate any students of yours who you believe would be a good fit for our program. The only way we can find these students is for you to bring them to our attention, and we ask for your help in this process. We all want to help students succeed, and get into the best schools for them and their future.

Wendy Y.
Below is my son's review. He was accepted to his dream Ivy League school!

From an admitted student's perspective, I am incredibly grateful to have met Sasha - he has been instrumental in helping me achieve my educational dreams (Ivy League), all while being an absolute joy (he's a walking encyclopedia, only funnier!) to work with.

Many people are dissuaded from seeking a college counselor because they think they can get into their desired college(s) either way. Honestly, going that route is a bit short-sighted and can jeopardize your odds of acceptances after years of hard work. The sad truth is, the American education system (even if you attend a fancy private school and ESPECIALLY if you go to a public school) doesn't really tell students how to write a compelling and authentic application. Going into the admissions process alone, without speaking with an advisor, is like going to court without a lawyer - you put yourself at a significant disadvantage because you don't have all the facts in front of you, or the help you need to negotiate the system.

That said, you need a good lawyer just like you need a good college counselor. And that's where Sasha distinguishes himself from the crowd of people claiming they'll get you into Harvard. I came to Sasha worried about and frankly dumbfounded by the college admissions process. I was unsure what to write about and how to go about drafting the essay that perfectly captured my passion, interests, and self. And I was highly skeptical that anyone could really help me. But, damn, did Sasha prove me wrong. From the beginning, Sasha amazed me with his understanding of the process, and ability to lend clarity and direction to me when I desperate needed it. After interviewing me about my background, experiences, activities, outlook, and vision, he helped me see qualities about myself I had not previously considered 'unique' or 'stand-out.' This process of understanding myself was so incredibly important in laying the groundwork for the essays I eventually wrote, and I'm certain I would've drafted boring, inauthentic essays without it.

Looking back, Sasha's talent is that he can see where your strengths lie, even when you don't see them. The truth is, although we don't always realize it, everyone has a unique story to tell. Sasha helped me see mine, and with his big-picture insight I was able to write the application that truly encapsulated my life and vision. He inspired me to dig deeper and write better, challenging me to revise and revise until my essays were the most passionate and authentic work I had ever written. As clichéd as that sounds, that's really what universities are looking for. In retrospect, it makes sense - in the real world passionate (not simply intelligent) individuals are the ones who make a difference in the world, and those are the individuals colleges would like to have associated with their brand.

In the end, I was accepted to the college of my dreams, a feat I could not have achieved without the direction Sasha lent to me. Essays (and the personal narrative you develop through your application) matter so much, and can literally make or break your application. I have seen so many of my 'qualified' friends receive rejections because they wrote contrived essays that didn't truly represent who they were; conversely, I have also seen so many friends with shorter resumes accepted because they were able to articulate their story in a genuinely passionate and authentic way - I fall into the latter category.

As a former admissions officer at Johns Hopkins, Sasha knows what types of essays jibe well with universities, an invaluable asset to have in the admissions process. He is responsive, flexible, creative, positive, and witty. For anyone who is serious about going into the college admissions process informed and prepared, I highly recommend Sasha.
Arda E.
I used Ivy Scholars to mainly help me with college applications. Within weeks of using this service, Sasha was able to simplify the already complex process. When it came to writing the Common App essay, Sasha didn’t just help with grammar and syntax, he brought my essays to life. Sasha also worked tirelessly to help solidify my extracurricular activities, including research and internship opportunities. Without his help, I would have never had an impressive resume.

Sasha is not only an extremely knowledgeable tutor, but also a genuine brother figure. His guidance, throughout my last two years of high school, was everything I needed to get me an acceptance letter from my dream schools (UC Berkeley, Tufts, Emory).

When it came to testing, Ivy Scholars worked like a charm. Sasha offered a very comprehensive plan when it came to completely acing my standardized tests. Without his test taking strategies I would have never gotten straight 5s on my AP tests and a 35 on the ACT.

Working with Sasha, I didn’t just become a good student, I became a genuine scholar.
Samson S.
We worked with Ivy Scholars during my son's senior year. I was concerned that we may be too late to take advantage of college advising but the Ivy Scholars team quickly and confidently directed us through the steps to ensure no deadlines were missed. Sasha's knowledge about schools, what they looked for in candidates, and how to maneuver the application process was invaluable. Mateo and Ryan worked with my son to help him create an essay that would get noticed and I am so appreciative he had their guidance.

Prior to securing Ivy Scholars, we tried using a less-expensive online service which was a terrible experience. As a parent, Ivy Scholars brought peace of mind to an area that was frankly overwhelming. This service was invaluable in the knowledge that we gained throughout the process. He has also met with my freshman daughter to provide guidance for her high school courses, career paths, extracurricular activities, and more.

Prior to signing with Ivy Scholars, I tried a less expensive online service and was very disappointed.

As a result of our work with Ivy Scholars, I am pleased to say that my son will be attending Stern Business School at New York University this fall! I highly recommend Ivy Scholars. Highly recommend!